Congratulations, parents! Your kids have successfully slogged through the last school term of 2016, dutifully attending remedial lessons, completing all their homework and scoring the exam results you wanted (we hope). Now that the school holidays are upon us, it's time for the entire family to take a breather before the next academic year begins.
A family trip to New York, Tokyo or London, would be an amazing way for the kiddos to experience more of the world, but that's going to burn a hole through the savings. (which also means that the red packets become a lot smaller during next year's Lunar New Year).
We've came up with 5 affordable vacation ideas to keep your kids entertained over the school holidays:
1. Visit one of the smaller Singapore’s islands
If the only beaches your kids have visited are East Coast Park and Sentosa, don’t be surprised if they’re thrilled by an island visit. Ok, we know that Singapore IS an island in itself. But not many Singaporeans realise that our country territory also includes some other islands off the mainland that are worth visiting for a day trip, or even enjoying an overnight stay.
Pulau Ubin is the first island that comes to mind for a quick getaway, and for good reasons. Ferries are constantly departing from Changi Ferry Terminal and cost only $2. Bicycle rentals start as low as $4 for children's bicycles to $7 for adults, and the easy-to-follow cycling paths will allow you to easily roam about the islands with ample rest stops along the way.
St John's and Lazarus Islands offer fairly untouristy, clean beaches, while Kusu Island will be a fascinating trip down history with the temple and Malay shrines. The kids may also be interested in a tortoise sanctuary. If you can get your hands on a reservation for the Sisters' Island guided walk, you can rest assured that the kids won't be glued to their iPhones, as they'll be riveted by the exotic wildlife in Singapore's first marine park.
2. Go on a chilly winter adventure.
If the kids have not experienced actual snow in their lives, there's no need for Switzerland or Hokkaido. Escape to Snow City near the Singapore Science Centre where the temperature is maintained continuously at sub-zero levels. Inside, the kids can tube down icy slopes, experiment with liquid nitrogen, and feel what it's like to have layers and layers of clothes piled on them.
Rental of warm jackets and boots is included in the entry fee ($15 for adults, $12 for children) so there's no need for lugging along heavy winter jackets all the way there. But do bring along gloves and wear long pants! The ramps up to the slides can also get coated with ice and become as slippery as wet marble, so do thread carefully.
3. Road trip up to our neighbour's
One of the best things about living in Singapore is that it can be faster to drive out of the country than to travel to Changi Airport. If you're not looking to bare costly airfare for the entire family, consider going on a road trip to Malaysia instead. Those who don't own a car can easily rent one in Malaysia at 1/3 the rental rate. Just be sure you know what to do should you get into a road accident while you're there.
You can travel all the way up to Penang if you're up for a long-distance journey, or just hop over to Desaru, Malacca, or KL if you're not looking to drive too much. Accommodation can be relatively cheap when you're holidaying in Malaysia, not to mention the dining and shopping too especially with the currency exchange rate at an all-time high now.
4. Visit the last remaining Kampung
Your kids might be surprised to know that there is still one last kampong (known as 'village' in Malay) left standing in Singapore. Yep, that's Kampong Lorong Buangkok, which is built in 1956 and located near Gerald Drive off Yio Chu Kang Road.
A quaint little village forgotten by time, Kampong Lorong Buangkok is far away from the bustle of modern city life, and houses close to 30 Chinese and Malay families. In stark contrast to the high-rise HDBs that blanket Singapore, the kampong is dotted with single-storey houses made of wood and roofed in zinc. With chickens, cats and dogs roaming around freely on loose sand paths, this will be a sure eye-opener for kids. Do a simple test by asking them to imagine what it must be like to live in a kampong, and see how quickly the kids indicate their preference for more modern dwellings. This may teach them to appreciate all that they have too.
5. Go Camping
There's no need to travel out into the dense forests or sheer cliffs of the wild USA for a camping trip. It costs almost nothing if you camp locally!
Camping is legal in many of Singapore’s public parks, including Pasir Ris Park, East Coast Park, and West Coast Park. You’ll have to apply online for a camping permit. After setting up your tents, activities you can enjoy include renting a bicycle or a pair of roller blade for an exploration around the park, taking a dip in the sea, or flying a kite. Options to tame growling bellies include having a picnic on the beach, dining at one of the eateries around the park, or to book barbecue pits to grill your own dinner.
The great thing about camping in Singapore, at least to those who want their luxuries and conveniences, is that you can scoot home for a shower and a change of clothes anytime you like. Sure, that’s not exactly roughing it, but hey, nobody’s complaining. Owe it to the kids to not have them grow up facing the four walls of the HDB bedrooms or classroom, and give them a taste of nature.